News 12 september — 12:23

Ex-adviser to Putin Andrei Illarionov: 'Russia has no interests in Azerbaijan, which cannot be said about Christian Armenia...'

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INTERVIEWED BY ZAUR RASULZADEH, KRYNICA-ZDROJ

Discussions about the alleged crisis of liberalism, its ideas and implementation in real life unfold today on the pages of many world publications. Today, the fate of the philosophical and sociopolitical movement, the ideology of which the West has literally privatised in recent decades, is being discussed by former adviser to the president of Russia Andrei Illarionov.

In a conversation with Azeri Daily, Illarionov first of all emphasised that, as an ideological trend, liberalism, of course, did not bypass Russia. Moreover, people professing it are in many governmental structures of the Russian Federation today.

'Actually, the current press articles about the crisis of liberalism cause nothing more than bewilderment. For example, Vladimir Volfovich Zhirinovsky calls his party liberal democratic, but at the same time, like some other Russian politicians, portends the collapse of liberalism. Why then does he not give up the name 'liberal democratic'?

Until a citizen is in government, he determines his belonging to a particular trend by what he says. And we label these as left, those as right. The second criterion appears when a politician, being elected or appointed to a particular position, begins to act. But in fact, if a person has been saying all his life: 'I am for liberalism,' and when becomes a minister of finance or economics, begins to raise taxes, import customs duties and establish various customs rates, then he has nothing to do with liberalism. Or he himself does not understand what liberalism is.

Andrei Illarionov

Many understand liberalism as something else, without delving into the meaning of the word. If, for example, 20 years ago, when liberalism was a kind of perception of a market economy for Vladimir Putin, he would have been told that liberalism had died, he simply would not have understood it. I will say more. On March 6, 2000, Putin spoke to weavers in Ivanovo, and you know what he was talking about? About free economy. And now it is simply impossible to imagine the president of the Russian Federation discussing free economy.

Of course, every person has an evolution in one's worldview, but in modern Russia, in the minds of politicians, this happens very quickly. The thing is that liberalism as such has not gone away, the conjuncture of its perception has simply changed. Even in today's Europe, there are no classical liberals left.

Although, however, they were not there at all. It's just that a model of society with elements of liberalism was built in Europe. Of the Western politicians of the twentieth century, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were more or less close to liberalism.

Well, now liberals in power can simply be written into the Red List. But, nevertheless, everything flows and changes, and the world changes. Today in Russia no one wants to return to a model of planned economy, a general shortage of goods, a ban on going abroad, a one-party system, and so on. Even Putin does not want this. Another thing is that in the minds of a part of the population it is necessary to nationalise big business, actively intervene in the economy, etc. But the results of such measures show that it is economically inefficient. When, for example, in Russia most of the oil companies were private, and this is the beginning of the 2000s, our oil production was growing by 7-8% per year. And now it is barely increasing by 1%. Along with this, economic growth in Russia has declined sharply. Now it is 1-0.3%, and until 2007 it reached 6-8% in our country.

If we look at the historical curve, then there were both an upsurge of liberal ideas and their decline. And since 2004, political freedoms around the world have been declining again. Could you imagine in the 1990s the inhumane attitude of the police towards the protesters? But now it has become commonplace. Or can journalists in the world today allow themselves to publish such articles as they wrote 20 years ago?

Firstly, the world in the 1980-1990s was much more liberal, and second, there were enough economic freedoms. And now we are witnessing political crises, trade wars everywhere in the world, which forces the authorities to be tougher. But this is temporary. I do not think that a democratic recession will drag on for long. There were many such socio-political phenomena: for example, in the 1920-1930s, there was a recession in the 1940s, when politicians such as Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Franco and others began to play the first violin in the world. And now we are faced with another recession of democracy.

There is a lot of unpredictability in the world today, so it's difficult to name the specific dates for completing the current recession. But at the same time, it's not worth talking about the collapse of liberalism. Let's take the same Arabs: why don't they go to Saudi Arabia and other rich countries of the Persian Gulf? After all the language is the same, their habitat, climate, and in many of them the standard of living is much higher than in Europe? But the Arabs are going to the Old Continent. And all because they hope to realise themselves precisely in free Europe.

Although I am not a supporter of the Soviet Union and its ideology, but, unlike classical dictatorships, decisions were made collectively there. Take the intervention in Afghanistan, for many in the Politburo were against it. For all the problems with that system, there was a collective responsibility that the world does not have now, and which leads to authoritarian methods.

As for Azerbaijan, I can say that the republic is developing steadily, and you are lucky that Russia has no global interests in your country, which cannot be said about Christian Armenia and Georgia. Even if you make some sharp turn in the direction of the West, nobody will speak with you in offended tones, because you are ideologically and religiously strangers. But any rapprochement of Ukrainians, Georgians, Armenians, Belarusians with the West in Russia is considered a betrayal, because in Russia they are sure that they all owe everything to it and should go only in its fairway.'

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